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352 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 26 illus., 3 maps, 4 tables, notes, index

Published in association with The William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies, Southern Methodist University

ISBN  978-0-8078-7146-1
Published: September 2010


Making and Remembering a Southwest Border Community

By Monica Perales

Awards & Distinctions

2011 Kenneth Jackson Award, Urban History Association

Finalist, 2010 William P. Clements Prize, William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies

Company town. Blighted community. Beloved home. Nestled on the banks of the Rio Grande, at the heart of a railroad, mining, and smelting empire, Smeltertown--La Esmelda, as its residents called it--was home to generations of ethnic Mexicans who labored at the American Smelting and Refining Company in El Paso, Texas.

Using newspapers, personal archives, photographs, employee records, parish newsletters, and interviews with former residents, including her own relatives, Monica Perales unearths the history of this forgotten community. Spanning almost a century, Smeltertown traces the birth, growth, and ultimate demise of a working class community in the largest U.S. city on the Mexican border and places ethnic Mexicans at the center of transnational capitalism and the making of the urban West. Perales shows that Smeltertown was composed of multiple real and imagined social worlds created by the company, the church, the schools, and the residents themselves. Within these dynamic social worlds, residents forged permanence and meaning in the shadow of the smelter's giant smokestacks. Smeltertown provides insight into how people and places invent and reinvent themselves and illuminates a vibrant community grappling with its own sense of itself and its place in history and collective memory.

About the Author

Monica Perales is associate professor of history at the University of Houston.


"Not just a narrative history . . . but also a look at how the community was created by Anglos and Hispanics, citizens and immigrants, rich and poor. . . . This well-researched and well-documented work would be a good addition for academic libraries, especially collections related to borderlands studies or labor issues."
--Library Journal

β€œIn addition to telling the story of the birth, life, and demise of a vibrant community, Smeltertown provides valuable insights.”
--Humanities Texas

"Historian [Perales] chronicles [the] birth, growth, and death of her family's neighborhood. . . . [in] the first in-depth book about Smeltertown."
--El Paso Times

"Perales chronicle[s] the journey of Mexican-Americans and their role in the industrialization and globalization of a small community near El Paso. Her book . . . tells their story where families thrived and business excelled."
--Houston Chronicle

"Smeltertown is an engaging exploration of the intersections of globalization and transnationalism."
--The Journal of American History

β€œSmeltertown is an important contribution to the growing body of research in Mexican American, gender, and social history.”
--Journal of Southern History

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